What is Unity?: If we aim for unity, we must know what it is

By: Bryson Chollar

The theme for Eastern University this year is unity. But to aim for this goal, we must know our target and, more importantly, what our target is not.

To further understand unity and its importance, we must know what unity is not. In particular, unity is not the same as uniformity. The difference between the two is subtle but holds vast implications. Unity pertains to a shared goal or state of mind. But uniformity requires some group of things to be uniform and therefore identical in quality. If a group is uniform, it is very likely experiencing unity, but unity does not require uniformity. People can choose to be unified by a goal but disagree on enactment, but if uniformity is their desired outcome, they cannot allow any disagreement.

Waltonian | The Waltonian Unity is Eastern’s theme for the 2022-23 academic year. Source: Pixabay

Uniformity can be beneficial, particularly with the manufacturing doctrine of replaceable parts. A factory, by design, has a limited capacity to produce varying kinds of products. Therefore it is cheaper to use the same product in many different places. For example, you cannot easily manufacture a rifle part if every rifle has unique pieces. If one part of this rifle were to break, the owner must find a close-enough replica of that part which will likely not be found on any other rifle. But if all rifles use that same part, it is easy to supply the replacement and solve the issue. The world as we know it today in all its beautiful complexity would not be possible without the theory of replaceable parts.

Unfortunately, the theory of replaceable parts, and by extension uniformity, comes with a dangerous temptation as it becomes all too easy to want to force people into becoming uniform. The success of such a massive and challenging enterprise promises an alluring utopia: a place where all human problems would go away. If we were the same, we would not ever disagree. We would be able to show empathy perfectly because we would be identical. But the great flaw, the Achilles heel, is in the name “theory of replaceable parts”.

In particular, the word replaceable. Human beings are not and should not be replaceable. Disaster strikes the very foundation of human fellowship when anyone believes that we can and should make those around us replaceable. If everyone was the same, they are by definition redundant! When something is replaceable, its value is diminished, and the pain of its loss is lessened. It could give a person or a group of persons the perfect excuse to erase lives for a greater cause.

But people are not redundant. God, the wisest and most loving being in and outside of existence, shaped every one of us. We are unique. Again, we come back to the importance of unity. For since we are this unique, we must hold something in common. We must be unified. But unified by what? Eastern University answers this question by stating a mission, a planted flag for people to rally behind: we must be unified under the goal of being a Christ-centered body that strives for faith, reason, and justice. We will inevitably disagree on how to get there, which is fine. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking the solution is to all agree with no dissent allowed. We must work together in unity, without resorting to uniformity.

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